Say The Word
written by Jeannine Garsee
Bloomsbury U.S.A. Childrens’ Books, New York, New York, 2009
reviewed by Karen S. Ireland-Phillips
Jeanine Garsee deftly captures the chaotic emotional state of young adulthood in a fast-paced, well plotted novel which deeply and respectfully explores the multi-level compromises and betrayals that are a part of growing up.
Old enough to understand that parents are fallible, but young enough to want and need the approval of her rigid, possessive, busy father, 17 year old Shawna is adept at projecting a competent “good girl” image, no matter how she may feel inside.
When her estranged mother Penny dies, Shawna is beset with complicated questions about identity, sexuality, friendship, parental expectations, internalization of parental expectations, and the elements that make people “family”.
After Shawna’s parents’ divorce years earlier, Penny left for New York to follow her heart, both romantically, establishing a family of her own with her lover Fran, and by pursuing a career in art. Penny’s unexpected death reveals that Fran and her two sons, with whom Shawna has a strained - at best – relationship, knew Shawna’s mother far better than she did. Yet when her father tries to strip Fran of everything she had with Penny, Shawna feels compelled to object – and rebel.
At the same time, she’s dealing with the fallout of her mother’s death at school, her longing for the wrong boy, and the disintegration of her relationship with her best friend. The resolution of these issues, some at a high cost to Shawna, ironically free her to be the best person she can – the goal she’s been pursuing all along.
The matter of fact portrayal of life and personal relationships with gay family and friends move this novel into a second level of young adult literature, in the context of an enchanting (but never romanticized) young woman’s coming of age.To purchase this book, please visit: Two Lives Publishing Website
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